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Michelle Hylan’s got soul. It’s not just the type of soul that singers achieve through imitation of the greats, though it it’s true that the soundtrack of Hylan’s childhood included a heavy dose of Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone. No, Hylan’s soul comes from a deeper place. A personal place. A feeling place. From the first note that Hylan sings, it’s clear that she has truly lived.
“Nothing else fills me up the way singing does,” says Hylan, explaining why she fell in love with music. The dream of being an artist planted itself early on in her development. Hylan loved listening to the non-stop rotation of records her mother played in the house— soul, country, jazz and then whatever was on the radio. “My mom always made pop relevant,” says Hylan.
In Hylan’s own music, a blend of old-style jazz and soul, she continues to infuse a pop sensibility. Hylan is influenced by expert storytellers like Dolly Parton, Janis Ian, soul giants like Aretha Franklin, and pop heroes including Madonna, Michael Jackson and Pink. “I want to be a singer’s singer, and a songwriter’s songwriter” Hylan says of her goals. “I want to quit my day job and do this every minute of every day.”
Hylan is working hard to make her dreams come true. Last December, she released an original Christmas song on iTunes. It was a collaboration with her producer Ric Poulin of Bristol Studios, and the song did extremely well. The release and subsequent success was a proud moment in Hylan’s burgeoning career. “Searching for myself on iTunes…that was sexy,” she says, lighting up the room with her signature laugh.
Hylan’s personality is warm, bubbly, and effusive. So where does that soul come from? In college, Hylan was involved in a terrible car accident. She was told that her dream of becoming a singer was dead. She would never sing again, doctors told her. But over time, Hylan proved those predictions wrong. From the wreckage, Hylan was reborn. Full of emotion, full of passion, full of soul.
Looking out at the audience in a busting New York club where Hylan often performs, she emotes a sort of innocence reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, an icon she is both compared to and inspired by. The club is called Singer’s Space, and standing there in front of the packed crowd with her blonde curls, and signature stilettos, Hylan bears a striking resemblance to the Hollywood glamor icon. “She was a lot stronger that people give her credit for,” says Hylan of her idol, “she was captivating and not afraid to be a bombshell.”
The modern day Marylyn begins to sing, and the audience falls into a silent rapture.
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